The battles over the fate of same-sex marriage and control of the Maine Legislature will reach another key benchmark this week when the latest round of campaign fundraising reports are released.

Up to now, the money race has been dominated by the coalition hoping Mainers will legalize gay marriage at the ballot box in November. The groups, consisting of eight different political action committees, have already raised close to $1 million in combined cash and in-kind donations, outpacing the six active gay marriage opponent PACs, 36-to-1.

That margin could narrow when the groups file campaign finance reports by midnight Thursday.

David Farmer, the spokesman for Mainers United for Marriage, the flagship group for gay marriage advocates, was touting another strong fundraising cycle. Farmer estimated that the coalition will raise close to another $1 million, a mark that puts the groups on track to raise $5 million during the election cycle.

The most recent reports show that the coalition supporting same-sex marriage has been bolstered by a variety of individuals, including a $100,000 donation from Chris Hughes, the co-founder of Facebook and current owner of The New Republic magazine.

In addition, the group received a $1,000 donation from Ethan McCusker, director of the Target retail stores. The donation reflects Target’s reversal of its opinion on marriage equality. The corporation previously donated $150,000 to a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota who had proposed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in that state. The donation prompted gay-rights advocates to call for a boycott against Target.

Protect Marriage Maine, the lead opposition group, raised just over $11,000. Gay marriage opponents have said they don’t expect to be able keep pace with the opposition.

However, the deep-pocketed National Organization for Marriage, the anti-gay marriage group that spent $1.9 million to overturn Maine’s marriage-equality law in 2009, has yet to show its hand. NOM has established a PAC in Maine, but it has remained largely inactive.

That’s likely to change. Frank Schubert, the messaging mastermind who helped overturn marriage-equality laws in Maine and California, is managing anti-gay marriage campaigns in four states and he’s again calling the shots here. Schubert’s activities are bankrolled by NOM, which finances controversial — some say misleading — television ads about the purported consequences of gay marriage.

Thursday’s campaign finance reports could also offer a glimpse of how the battle for the Legislature is shaping up. Semi-annual reports are due for the state party committees that will direct some, but not all, of the spending on legislative races.

The Maine Democratic State Committee showed $203,070 in contributions before the primary. The figure puts the party close to the $244,452 it raised in 2008, a high-energy year for Democrats.

The Maine Republican Party has raised $90,747 so far in 2012. The GOP saw contributions totalling $392,641 in 2008 and $317,436 in 2010.

The Green Independent Party has raised $4,182 so far. It raised $3,625 in 2008.

All other PACs that will spend on legislative issues also are due Thursday.

Staff Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at

[email protected]

 

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